Is there a piece of a future state in every sliding window?

Modernity criticism and dystopias at the 4th Weimar Controversies

© bpk/Kunstbibliothek, SMB, Photothek Willy Römer/Willy Römer
Haus am horn, Weimar, with Alma Buscher and László Moholy-Nagy, 1923

[Translate to English:] Absatz 1

Anyone thinking that the Weimar Controversies would join in the general adulation of “the most influential art and design school of the 20th century – perhaps even of all time” (Royal Academy Magazine) was undeceived on the opening evening. Not only the title of the introductory keynote presentation, “Utopia and disappointment: 100 years of the Bauhaus””, marked the immediate critical stance of the symposium with respect to the promise – and results – of the Bauhaus. Ulrike Lorenz, Director of the Klassik Stiftung Weimar, also stressed in her welcoming speech: “The term utopia is so unworldly,” that she preferred to join Michel Foucault in exploring heterotopias that have established themselves as real alternative worlds, completely independently of the visions of Modernity in our postmodern mainstream


As the sociologist Zygmunt Baumann recently stated in Retrotopia (2017), it currently appears that every future, even that of the Bauhaus, has passed.

Oliver Sukrow, Weimar Controvresies

[Translate to English:] Bild 1

© Nicolas Flessa
On the evening of the first day of the Controversies, the first part of the installation “Zenica Trilogie” was officially opened on the upper level of the Bauhaus Museum Weimar.

[Translate to English:] Absatz 2

The fact that the series of events, which was organised for the fourth time by the Klassik Stiftung Weimar in cooperation with the Bauhaus Institute of the History and Theory of Architecture and Planning at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, was dedicated this year to the theme “Horizons of expectation and perceptions of the future in 100 years of the Bauhaus” proved to be a cunning tactical move by its two curators, Oliver Sukrow from Vienna and Ulrike Bestgen from Weimar: what could be more fascinating than demanding a better future, one that the Bauhaus managed to represent, in addition to their design ambitions, perhaps more successfully than any school of art – and the contrast between such visions, which have long disappeared, and the later reality and its consequences?


Contemporaries repeatedly attempted to defame the Bauhaus as ‘feminine’ due to its orientation towards applied arts.

Anja Baumhoff, Hochschule Hannover

[Translate to English:] Bild 2

© Nicolas Flessa
As always at the Weimar Controversies, the dialogue did not take place on a podium: the audience spoke to Gabriele Zipf (Futurum Berlin) and Aart van Bezooijen (Kunsthochschule Burg Giebichenstein). How does one communicate the living worlds of the future?

[Translate to English:] Absatz 3

The two-part symposium, which was once again clearly aimed at the general public, nevertheless provided a wealth of expertise as the basis for subsequent discussions: the thematic framework of the first event day ranged from utopian “temporal concepts” to “utopian spaces”. Its speakers addressed the historical embedding of the Bauhaus between “Anticipation of the future in the Weimar Republic” (Rüdiger Graf) and the “Futura fascista” (Fernando Esposito), as well as individual questions including timeless themes such as “Colour in 1920s avant-garde architecture” (Deborah Barnstone) and current perspectives such as gender concepts (Anja Baumhoff) and environmental design (Joaquin Medina Warmburg).


The problem with the climate crisis will neither be solved by praising the movement nor by showing it the finger, as we have experienced on our demonstrations. That doesn’t stop the forest fires and the rising sea levels.

Lina Kornmüller, Fridays for Future

[Translate to English:] Bild 3

© Nicolas Flessa
Only a small part of the team that organised the Weimar Controversies this year (left to right): Nicolas Flessa (Berlin, Chair Day 2), Kai-Uwe Hemken (Kassel, Panel 2), Franziska Stöhr (Munich, Panel 2), Ulrike Bestgen (Weimar, Co-Curator/Chair Day 1), Max Welch Guerra (Weimar, Chair Day 1) and Eckhart Gillen (Berlin, Panel 2)

[Translate to English:] Absatz 4

The second part of the event was entirely reserved for dialogue. In four panels, guests from Switzerland and throughout Germany discussed themes going far beyond historical Modernity – such as “Utopias on the stage” (including a presentation by Andreas Schwab on the Monte Verità) and the “Potential of utopian art” (see Image 3 for speakers), the communication of “Professional and living worlds of the future” (Image 2) and “Future horizons in the Anthropocene”. Above all the final part, with its keynote speech by Franz Mauelshagen and the presentation by the “Fridays For Future” activist Lina Kornmüller (University Erfurt), ensured that the 4th Weimar Controversies once again achieved their self-defined aim in exemplary fashion: namely transforming critical discourse on the past into a driving force for reflection on our contemporary contradictions. Was the future really better in the past? Perhaps. One thing is certain, however: shaping it today has never been more important.


    [NF 2019; Translation TBR]

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    • # Criticism of Bauhaus
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